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Anyone who has gone through or who has looked into divorce in California may have come across terms like “community property” and “separate property.” These terms are associated with how a person’s owned items may be classified when a court divides a divorcing couple’s possessions. While the terms may seem to only address physical items owned by parties to a marriage, they also apply to intangible assets as well as the debts and liabilities of the divorcing parties.

According to the Judicial Branch of California, property can include cars, homes, clothing, bank accounts, investments, debts and practically any other thing over which a person can yield ownership. Property does not have to be physical and, in many cases, high asset divorces involve many intangible assets which hold great monetary value. Unfortunately for some couples, the debts and obligations the partners owe on credit cards, loans and other liabilities must also be sorted out.

Generally, debts and liabilities follow the same property division rules as assets and physical property. If a debt was acquired before the marriage by one of the partners, then that debt is usually considered the separate property of the individual. If a debt is incurred during a marriage and for the benefit of the couple, then it is generally grouped with other marital assets and liabilities, meaning that it will be divided in the event of divorce.

Readers of this California family law blog should be aware that while the basic rules discussed in this post fit some legal scenarios they should not be applied as specific legal advice. Individuals with questions about marital debts may benefit from working with lawyers who work in the family law field. As every divorce is different, each individual facing the end of his or her marriage may choose to seek out counsel that can help him or her understand his or her particular legal needs.